It seems that one of the hardest things for us to do is to listen to God, often we are so obsessed with praying to Him and asking Him for all the things we want, we forget to stop and listen. I used to do this sketch with someone acting as God hidden somewhere, where I kept talking on the phone, and the voice off just kept trying to interrupt, without success. Then I just said, “Amen,” and hung up. One of the great honours of being a 'forgiven-Christian' is that we can talk to God, and if we truly make an effort, hear from God, through the Holy Spirit. I guess the average Christian has trouble hearing God's voice, which is not the way it was supposed to be. Truly, I have only heard God's voice once on my life, however He does often make His requirements known by manipulating things around us, including the people we come in contact with. He can also manipulate circumstances to send us in a certain direction, most of us try to find His will by attempting to open doors until we find the one that He led us to. How much simpler and how much quicker it would be to actually hear God speak to us.
We must learn to distinguish God's voice from our own and that of Satan or his demons, the other voice we hear is that of the world and its secular demands. How much easier would our lives be if we could hear His voice, for the sick, their healing could be one word away, family situations could be turned around, financial difficulties put to rights, or healing that broken heart . God knows the solution to every problem and His single word can can bring relief. We must first realise that God constantly speaks to us and gives us instructions, it is not God that stops speaking, but it is us that fails to listen. What does Jesus say about listening, in John 10:3-5 He was speaking about it in code using sheep and shepherds as an example:
“To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. 5 A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.”
Jesus was of course speaking of Himself as the shepherd. In verse three he says that the sheep (us) hear His voice, this is a definite statement here, no 'CAN hear' or 'should hear' Jesus says that they do hear His voice. Many Christians would say that those days are gone, that God never speaks to us these days, but they are wrong, it's just that we no longer recognise God's voice. In many ways His voice is drowned out by modern living, like the airwaves cluttered with TV and radio signals, taxies, marine and aircraft communications, to hear the messages we need to have the right equipment and then actually tune in to the correct wavelength.
Every Christian has a transmitter and a receiver, but we only ever use our transmitters to send our requests. We need to get our receivers operating, tune in to God's wavelength, which takes a little time, effort and concentration. The Psalmist tells us to “Be still, and know that I am God.” [Psalm 46:10], the word translated as 'know' in this verse is the Hebrew word 'yậda', which is one of those Hebrew words that has at least a hundred meanings, however amongst them is the definition 'discern'. Which can easily be translated as listen or understand, so we could translate this part of the verse as being 'be still and hear that I am God, so to hear God we must be still, we have to stop and focus upon Him. In stillness we can hear God's voice, not in the hustle and bustle of life, and He speaks in a 'still small voice' [1 Kings 19:12], so a still small voice can be easily be drowned out.
One real danger is that we mistake our own voice for God's, especially when we really want something to happen, because God speaks through our own thoughts, most of the time. There have been occasions where God has spoken in a loud voice, so that everyone could hear, as He did during Jesus' baptism [Matthew 3:17]. Normally God speaks through our thoughts, because He is Spirit [John 4:24] and so we need to communicate, spirit to spirit. Therefore our spirit must listen to His Spirit, this is one of the reasons that we are given an in-dwelling spirit when we accept Jesus into our lives. So He speaks through our thoughts, impressions and feelings, and the words come to us from our spirit. Often this can be in pure reactions, our spirit can react to something or someone directly, giving us the feeling that we should do something, or not do something if we are going the wrong way [Isaiah 30:21]. So it can be easy to mistake our own thoughts as those of the spirit which God has given, John says that if we are of God we will hear Him and that if we do not hear Him, we are not of God [John 8:47]. However, we need to learn what God's voice sounds like.
Like everything God will not force His will upon you, He wants us to submit to Him of our own accord, and so He will not force His words on us. Many people, many Christians do not want to hear Him speaking, because it is too costly, many are just not ready to hear, many are not mature enough in the faith. We all need to ask ourselves the question, why do we want to hear God? God's word is living and dynamic and sharper than a sword and cuts to divide the soul and the spirit as well as the body and judges our attitudes [Hebrews 4:12]. Here's a thought; if you have answered 'yes' to the above question, it is more than likely that you are hearing Him already, as He may be the one who is giving that longing to your spirit.
The whole of the Bible, Old and New Testaments has been written by people like you and I, who have listened and discerned God's word, and obeyed Him to write down what He said. Indeed the Bible itself that in the beginning was the word [John 1:1] and we read in 2 Timothy 3:16, that all scripture is God breathed and is for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training. Here then God places a seal on what has been written, confirming that scripture is His word. We do not need history or archaeology and two thousand years to support it, because God's word is good enough.
Of course, as we said above, when we want to have a conversation with God, we pray, when we want to have a conversation with someone, we stand in front of them and hope they will speak to you. That depends on the other person being in a mind to talk, a better way is to walk up to someone and speak to them first and attract their attention. It is much the same with God, and He wants us to talk to Him, we were created to have communion (converse) with God, we see this in Genesis where it suggests that Adam would walk and talk to God in the garden [Genesis 3:8-10]. It is at those times when we are closest to the Lord and when we should prepare ourselves to hear His voice, I we need advice we need His advice we have to ask and then listen. Just as in normal conversation we speak and then listen (unless we are totally self-absorbed). It is unlikely that His answer will be audible although it has happened as we saw above, but it is more likely that He will use other means.
God speaks to us through His anointing [1 John 2:27].
God speaks to us through His prophets, [Hebrews 1:1] although we have no prophets anointed by God, today God uses many of His people to prophetise to His children.
God speaks through His word [2 Timothy 3:16-17], the Spirit may guide us to a specific passage or verse which will answer our prayer.
God answers through the Holy Spirit [Revelation 2:7], a strong conviction or voice within our thoughts.
God speaks to us through others, both unbelievers and believers, through word or deed, a song or a lesson [1 Corinthians 14:26].
God speaks through circumstances [Acts 16:6–7], which God can manipulate to show the way forward.
One more way to hear God's voice is through Jesus, because Jesus is God [John 10:30-38] therefore if you want to hear the voice of God we must study the teachings of Jesus [1 John 1:1]. To hear God's voice we must have a personal relationship with Christ, we can always have the best conversations with people we know well, rather than complete strangers. Before Jesus was crucified He met with His disciples to assure them that He would send His Spirit upon them as a helper [John 14:16-17]. He promised that the 'Counsellor' that He would send in His name, would teach them all things He taught them [John 14:26] and the second chapter of Acts details what happened when that Spirit came on Pentecost. In verse three it confirms that they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, the Counsellor promised by Jesus. The Counsellor was not someone who would tell them what to do, but a spirit that would live inside them, and it is that same Spirit that lives in each one of His followers. The original disciples listened to their Spirit, and they went on to perform healing and wonders throughout their land. Is the reason that so few miracles happen today the result of us no longer listening to the voice of God in any of His various ways? If we listen, do we hear our own voice rather than His voice? If we hear His voice, do we act on it or ignore it, because the cost is too great?
In conclusion, we have God's word – the Bible, prayer, the Holy Spirit, our own hearts, words of wisdom, and circumstances to help us hear God's voice. What excuse do we have then if we really want to hear His voice? We must have willing hearts, the Book of Revelation tells us “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” [Revelation 3:20] As we saw above, God will never force you to obey Him, He wants you to respond willingly to His voice.
In God's love.